Finding Your Keywords in a (Not Provided) World

Finding Your Keywords in a (Not Provided) World

Since Google made all Google searches secure on September 23, 2013, “not provided” results in Google Analytics makes up a significant average of 80.14% keyword data. This figure is predicted by many in the SEO world to reach 100% in the near future.

For many marketers, this means being unable to:

  • Find which keywords are bringing in traffic
  • Find keywords that are converting
  • Optimise page content for users  based on keywords used to arrive there

So what can you do?

Pay attention to your landing pages

Keywords are intrinsically tied to the page that the user visits. While this may not exactly show you whether or not the users arrival resulted in a conversion, it is a good start to identify if any of your targeted keywords are generating traffic for your SEO campaign.

You can easily set this up in Google Analytics by choosing ‘destination page’ in the ‘behavior’ sub-menu in the secondary dimension section.


Click to enlarge

If, however, you need your secondary dimension filter to make use of  ‘not provided’ alongside other metrics, check out this advanced filter hack by Dan Barker.

Use your AdWords data

Many speculated that the reason Google made search queries more ‘secure’ was to drive people to use AdWords marketing, not to protect users’ privacy. This is because all your keyword data is still available if you have an AdWords account (which still begs the question, why aren’t these queries being protected?). Nevertheless, if you do have an AdWords account, you still hold the luxury of viewing your keyword data.

Install in-site search

Your site’s own search functions can give you an insight into what current users are having troubles finding on your website.

A search performed on the E-Web Marketing website

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Implementing this is fairly simple. In Google Analytics, head over to the Admin dashboard and click on ‘View Settings’.

Google Analytics - View Settings

Scroll down and turn site search tracking to ‘on’. Then add in your website’s search query parameter. To find this, perform a website search on you profile and add in the query you see in your URL. For example, if you search something on the domain, your site search URL will look something like this: The ‘s’ is the parameter used by our site to generate search results.

Google Analytics Site Search


Look at your search queries

You can still use Google Webmaster Tools to view search queries that generate website traffic to your website.  This is by no means a replacement to keywords in Google Analytics, but it can show you which keywords are generating impressions and which ones perform well in terms of their click through rate (CTR). It will give you content creation ideas, and show you landing pages that have room for improvement.

Look at other search engines

You can look at Bing Keyword Research to view keyword suggestions based from organic searches (and not paid search advertising data). This should only be used as a last resort, especially if Google is your biggest source of organic search traffic. In Australia, Google still retains 92.47% of the market share (Oct 2013, Stat Counter). Relying on a small sample of traffic alone to co-ordinate your entire search campaign can do more damage than good.

Use advanced segments

Aris Abramian covered how to understand (not provided) data in an excellent blog post 12 months ago on the E-Web Marketing blog. By using advanced segments and establishing mid-points from your website data, you can roughly estimate which keywords are bringing in traffic. Do note that the post was written at a time when (not provided) only applied to visitors who were logged in, so again, you will be working with a smaller number now and therefore should not rely on this strategy alone.

Closing thought

Many are still wondering why there are separate privacy rules for organic and paid search marketers. Why is there a lack of ‘privacy’ for users who click on paid advertisements? Whatever the case, it is a clear reminder for businesses to take the focus off keywords, and place it into creating content that solves their problems or answers their questions. The examples provided above are some of the many ways marketers are interpreting their (not provided) data.

If you have any queries about these examples, feel free to drop a comment below!


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We’ve been in the digital marketing field for over 18 years and worked with hundreds of Australian (and international) businesses to grow their web presence. Specialising in SEO, search ads (PPC), social media, content marketing, email marketing and conversion rate optimisation.

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